Bin Laden

On Sunday evening, I heard the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden. With the news I experienced a strange dichotomy of feelings within me, as I know many others did. As I scanned online news sources to learn more of the situation, my feelings deepened, and I began to wonder, “What is a balanced, Jesus-inspired response to such an event?” For me there is no easy answer.

On Sunday night I saw photos/clips of many in our country rejoicing and cheering, with flags waving and chants of “USA, USA…”  Part of me resonates with these emotions. I am reminded of Biblical references like Proverbs 11:10 (“A city is happy when honest people have good fortune, and there are joyful shouts when the wicked die”).  We can rejoice when initiators of violence are stopped.  Bin Laden’s death has been an occasion for many to celebrate the demise of a man who brought so much pain and fear.

Another element present on Sunday night was several truly hate-filled voices, rejoicing at the eternal fate of Bin Laden and implying violence to like-minded enemies. Now if there is a reason to hate, Bin Laden’s plans and actions are an understandable target. But in hearing from these voices, I was curious how the words of Christ are received.

In Matthew 5:9 Jesus says, 9 Blessed are the peacemakers; God will call them his children!” And in Matthew 5:43-47, He says, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.” This directly gets at the issue for me. What shall we do with the words of Christ that call us to be active in making peace by loving our enemies? Jesus’ words are challenging, especially when such an enemy of our nation falls. How can we actively work toward peace as Christ followers in this scenario?

Martin Luther King, Jr. has been misquoted this week across the web. While looking into this apparent quote I discovered his thoughts on the matter.  In one of his sermons he said, “Let us move now from the practical ‘how’ to the theoretical ‘why’: Why should we love our enemies? The first reason is fairly obvious. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate; violence multiplies violence and toughness multiples toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”

There is no easy response to the raw emotions seen this week. But whatever our natural reaction is to the news of Bin Laden’s death, may I make a suggestion, while honoring those who are personally close to the war on terror and the effects of 9/11? I want to invite us to do two things: 1) pray for God’s peace to invade our own hearts and to invade the hearts of those bent on self-gain at the expense of others, and 2) dialogue with one another on the matter of how we can be bearers of good news in the face of hatred, whatever its origin. What do you say?

What are your thoughts on this dialogue?


2 Responses to “Bin Laden”

  1. Chris vanStaalduinen May 4, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    In my struggle with how to react to the new of OBL’s death I found it easy to react as a “good” American and hard to react as a loyal follower of Christ.

    The “good” American it seems needs to celebrate the planned death of another man, a man who orchestrated unthinkable evil, but a man none the less. A man who’s death was so important that we overlook the invasion of a fourth islamic country, a man who was too scared to even release anymore videos of himself, so that no information of his whereabouts could be gleaned from it, a man who had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God

    The loyal follower of Christ has to do some self examination before casting the first stone.

    It is easy for me to react as the “good” American, it is easy to order the new Bin Laden martini (two shots and a splash) and laugh about it.

    It is hard for me to except that, even though I have not planned and carried out terrorist attacks, I too have fallen short of the glory of God, it is hard for me to drop the stone.

    It is easy to say OBL got what he deserved.

    It is hard to except that I deserve no better.

    I don’t know that I can be an effective bearer of the good news in the face of evil, I can only hope to be an effective sharer of grace. Grace, that I except is sufficient enough to save me from having martini’s named in honor of my demise, must then also be enough to save anyone who deserves no better than me.

  2. brad May 7, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

    I posted the following on the Collide blog, and it has continued to frame how I think about this:

    “Bin Laden’s death is probably justified. But it’s not justice. Divine justice would be if the whole reason for conflict was removed. This single action does nothing to further that agenda. At all.”

    In my case, it only took one picture of a Muslim man weeping over Bin Laden’s death to bring home how so-not-over this whole matter is.

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